A Matter of Faith

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Gibraltar, Dec 22, 2018.

  1. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    The relief convoy plodded along at a stately warp five, comprised of two dozen of the gargantuan Continent-class freighters escorted by four starships. The convoy’s destination was Kontrellis IV, a Cardassian Class-M planet whose atmosphere had been laced with biogenic-disruptors during the final days of the war, a particularly nasty form of nanite engineered by the Dominion.

    Over the past year Federation relief teams had made numerous attempts at thwarting the disruptors, but had only found middling success in slowing the planet’s ecological collapse. The self-replicating nanites attacked bacteria on the surface and plankton-analogues in the world’s oceans, undermining the foundation of all life on the planet.

    Now agriculture had collapsed as crops withered and died along with tens-of-thousands of animal species which were unable to take sustenance from the blighted plants and grasses of the once fertile planet.

    The convoy’s cargo holds were filled with emergency foodstuffs, industrial replicators, and the parts for the first of many atmospheric processors needed to maintain the oxygen-levels in Kontrellis IV’s atmosphere as its biosphere died.

    Aboard the oldest of the escorting starships, a communications display lit up, indicating the detection of a rare and cherished commodity while on escort duty, something out of the ordinary.

    Lieutenant (junior grade) Olivia Juneau’s boredom was interrupted by the incoming transmission, weak though it was. She glanced back to the command chair, addressing the ship’s first officer. “Commander, I’m picking up what looks to be an automated distress beacon. Point of origin is somewhere in Sector 23448, in the vicinity of the Liko system.”

    Commander Liana Ramirez set down the padd she’d been reading and tried to stop the look of relief from settling on her features. Someone else’s misfortune should never be cause for celebration, she reminded herself, but convoy duty was so damnably dull.

    “Try and get a better fix on the origin, Lieutenant,” Ramirez ordered before toggling the comms. “Captain to the bridge.”

    A moment later, Captain Donald Sandhurst and Lt. Commander Pell Ojana arrived from the ready room, their drudging personnel review happily interrupted by the developing situation.

    The thin and somewhat gaunt looking Sandhurst seated himself the command chair as Ramirez vacated it and assumed her usual station in the lower bridge well. “What have we got, Olivia?” he inquired.

    Juneau rattled off the nature and specific coordinates of the transmission, adding, “I’ve inquired with the Gormra Array, and they identify a Bajoran Banik-class freighter as being at those coordinates.”

    Ramirez gave Sandhurst an inscrutable look. “I wouldn’t put it past Cardassian insurgents or the Maquis to use a Bajoran freighter to stage an ambush, Captain.”

    “Certainly smells like a trap, sir,” Pell agreed.

    Sandhurst cocked his head as though weighing the odds. “Only one way to find out.” He gestured at Juneau to open a channel, and as the circuit chirped active he issued, “This is Captain Sandhurst of the Federation starship Gibraltar. We have received a distress beacon from your ship. Please relay the nature of your emergency and what assistance you require.”

    He then eased back into the command chair. “See? Wasn’t that easy?”

    Juneau touched a hand to the micro-earpiece in her left ear. “Signal from Königsberg, sir. Captain Urut is ordering us to break away and investigate the distress call.”

    Pell frowned, the expression enhanced by her wrinkled Bajoran nose-ridge. “We’ve got a Defiant-class with us, and Urut wants us to go and take a look?”

    “We are the most expendable,” noted Lieutenant Pava Lar’ragos from the tactical station immediately behind the captain’s chair, “technically speaking.”

    Pell directed a piercing look towards the smaller but well-toned El Aurian man. “You say that like you enjoy getting thrown to the wolves.”

    Lar'ragos made a show of his exaggerated shrug. "Each according to his gifts."

    A smirk flit briefly across Ramirez’s features. “So, we go stick our hand in the box to find out what’s inside?”

    “Right,” Sandhurst affirmed. “Operation High Hopes and Low Expectations.”

    Pell rubbed the back of her neck in a sure sign of exasperation. “You know how this is going to go, right? Does anyone remember what happened last time we responded to one of these?”

    “Asteroid belt,” Lar’ragos muttered, providing an abbreviated summary as though reciting a shopping list. “Big fight. Maquis. Border Service. Irradiated captain. Dry-dock repairs.” He smacked his lips, “Andorian hors d'oeuvres.”

    At Ops, Juneau turned back to shake her head at Lar’ragos, mouthing a horrified, “No!”

    “Now, now,” Sandhurst chided. “We have a duty to respond, investigate, and assist where possible, regardless of whatever happened last time.”

    “Response incoming, sir,” Juneau announced with a hint of surprise.

    “Patch it through,” Sandhurst ordered, turning to share a raised eyebrow with Ramirez.

    “Federation vessel, this is the Bajoran transport Rushaan, in transit from Bajor IV to the Nyberrite Alliance with passengers and cargo. We have been attacked by a Yelnar combat skiff and were able to make an escape. Due to damage suffered in that exchange, our warp engines have now failed and we are restricted to sub-light speeds. We believe more Yelnar ships are on the way to intercept us.”

    Sandhurst turned to give Ramirez a questioning expression. “Yelnar, Commander?”

    “A former vassal species to the Cardassians, sir. Their planet was conquered at roughly the same time as Bajor. However, the Yelnar were employed by the Cardassians as enforcers, keeping other subject species in line. Their planet was freed from occupation half a decade before Bajor, and they’ve kept a pretty low profile since then. They don’t trade with their neighbors much, and tend to stick to themselves.”

    “Any idea why they’d jump a Bajoran transport?” he asked quietly.

    “None, sir.”

    Sandhurst looked to Pell. “Ojana, anything?”

    The Bajoran officer shook her head. “The Yelnar were notorious on Bajor for being the lapdogs of the Cardassians, but I can’t recall any of them ever being posted there. We occasionally ran across them at Cardassian installations off-world when I was with the resistance. I don’t think there’s any diplomatic or commercial contact between Bajor and Yelna now, at least none that I know of.”

    Sandhurst opened a navigation display on his armrest console, checking figures before toggling the comms open. “Rushaan, we are presently five hours from your location at maximum speed and are on our way. You may want to look for a good spot to hole up until we arrive.”

    “Understood, Gibraltar. We’ve located a tendril of the McAllister nebula that we can reach at impulse within the hour. I’m sending you the coordinates. We’ll see you when you arrive.”

    “Any idea why the Yelnar would attack you?” Sandhurst inquired. “It’s a bit out of their way, and according to my officers they’ve never been known to engage in much piracy.”

    There was a pregnant pause before the voice responded, “No. No reason we can come up with, Captain.”

    Pell snorted and Ramirez made a skeptical face.

    “Mister Lightner, set coordinates for that rendezvous and engage at warp eight.” Sandhurst turned to Pell, raising a finger to belay the protest she’d opened her mouth to voice. “Yes, I know this whole thing reeks of ambush, but we’ll take every precaution.”

    “Hmm,” Lar’ragos mused from behind him. “Reeks of Ambush.”

    “Don’t say it!” Juneau called back from Ops.

    “Good band name,” Lar’ragos assessed with mock gravity.

    Juneau groaned.

    Sandhurst sighed.

    * * *​
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  2. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    "Reeks of Ambush." I was going to guess it was Pava's brand of aftershave.
    Gosh, the nostalgia from this chapter . . . :)
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  3. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    I quite like this. It brings back the good old days. I’ve missed the early Gibraltar stories and it’s characters.
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  4. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005
    A nice holiday surprise. I was thinking this was a short piece, but it looks to be the start of a longer story. It was nice revisiting the Gibraltar days. I'm looking forward to the Yelnar. Great name and history for them.
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  5. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    What an unexpected blast from the past, right here.

    This has all the hallmarks of a classic Gibraltar tale. Very excited to see what this shapes out to be.
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  6. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
  7. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    * * *​

    The tactical reconnaissance drones dematerialized, recalled by Gibraltar as the captain of the Rushaan, Dever Olos, looked on. He turned to regard Ramirez with a half smile as he remarked, “Would I be correct in guessing that you’ve had some bad run-ins out here? You came aboard like we were carrying a legion of Jem’Hadar.”

    “’Bad’ would be something of an understatement, Captain,” Ramirez replied in a conspiratorial tone. She glanced towards the other away team members, finding Lar’ragos and his four-person security detail outfitted in armored vests and cradling high-powered phaser rifles. The drones had beamed over first, and once the ship appeared secure, Ramirez and the security team had followed.

    Now that she and they had given the craft a cursory once-over, Ramirez was prepared to bring the rest of the away team aboard. She tapped her combadge, “We’re clear here, Gibraltar. Code Orange. Repeat, Code Orange. Send over the rest of the party.”

    The hum of the transporter sounded again, this time depositing the ship’s hulking Bolian engineer, Lieutenant Ashok, alongside the comparatively diminutive chief medical officer, Lieutenant Taiee. Accompanying them were an additional medical technician and three more junior engineers.

    Captain Dever led the group to the engineering compartment, a relatively cramped workspace that housed the old freighter’s antiquated warp drive, a copy of a long-retired Cardassian drive system from the late 23rd century. Ashok and his team set to work as Taiee and her med-tech made their way to the ship’s wardroom which served as a makeshift sickbay and began treating injured crew and passengers. Lar’ragos assigned two of his security personnel to each compartment.

    As they left the medics to their work, Ramirez and Lar’ragos followed Dever into a dimly lit, congested corridor filled with exposed conduits. One of Dever’s crewmen, a Bajoran man of impressive stature, brought up the rear and nearly filled the whole width of the passageway. “Interesting that your ship has a Jem’Hadar polaron cannon among its armaments, Captain,” Lar’ragos noted.

    “Helpful is the word I’d choose to use, Lieutenant,” he replied amiably. “It gives us ten-times the punch we used to have, though as you’ve seen, it the power requirements play hell with our old engines.”

    “May I ask where you acquired such a weapon?” Ramirez queried.

    “The Dominion War left a lot of wreckage behind,” Dever clarified. “I’m sure I don’t need to explain standard salvage rights to a Starfleet officer?”

    “Just as I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that the Bajoran government has several agreements in place that require their military and civilian ships to surrender any such armaments to the nearest allied outpost?” Ramirez retorted.

    Dever ducked his head as the quartet passed through a pressure door. “No, I understand that. I also reserve the right not to give a damn about Federation restrictions.” He glanced back, favoring Ramirez with a sly grin. “My crew and I do the run from Bajor to the Nyberrite Alliance twice per standard year. It’s a six-month trip each way at warp five, with plenty of opportunity to get jumped by all manner of low-life characters. I’ve tangled with Tzenkethi, Breen, and Nausicaans just since the end of your war. We’re in Federation controlled space for approximately a week of that journey, and the rest of the time we’re very much on our own.”

    “Sounds familiar,” Lar’ragos grunted, eliciting a sharp look from Ramirez.

    “So what enticed the Yelnar to attack an outbound heavy cargo freighter so close to well-patrolled space lanes? They could have followed you and attacked later at a much safer location for them.” Ever the tactician, the inconsistencies in Dever’s story had been bothering Ramirez since their first subspace contact with the vessel.

    “No idea, Commander. I haven’t had any run-ins with the Yelnar before, and there weren’t any survivors from the skiff that attacked us, so I have no clue as to what their goals were.”

    “Strange, that,” Lar’ragos observed. “We scanned the wreckage on our approach to your position. That skiff was only about twice the size of a Starfleet runabout.”

    Dever stopped, turning to look past Ramirez at the El Aurian. “Your point?”

    “Nary a whit of cargo space,” Lar’ragos replied. “Why attack a freighter if you can’t make off with anything of value?”

    Dever’s expression hardened. “Perhaps I stuttered, Lieutenant? I just said that I don’t know their motivations.”

    Lar’ragos nodded agreeably, producing his tricorder and opening the device. He held the display up for Dever to see. “Perhaps we should ask the six individuals to whom these Yelnar life-signs belong, Captain? They’re only sixteen meters away, after all, in what I believe is a small compartment that doesn’t appear on your manifest or schematics.”

    The phaser that suddenly appeared in Ramirez’s hand stopped Dever’s hand in its place, halfway to the Cardassian phaser secreted at the small of his back under his tunic.

    “Let’s revisit the ‘I don’t know’ portion of your story, Captain,” Ramirez pressed.

    There was a heavy thud as the large crewman behind them collapsed to the deck, the weighty metal spanner he’d raised over his head now slipping from his insensate fingers.

    “Oops,” Lar’ragos offered.

    * * *​
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2018
  8. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    Lol! Classic Lar’ragos with that ‘oops’.
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  9. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Nothing to see here, folks. Move along, move along . . . ;)
    Good instincts from Ramirez and Lar'ragos. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, smells like a duck, and carries a Cardassian phaser like a duck, then . . . well . . .
    Okay, I lost my train of thought, but you get my point. I hope. :crazy:
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  10. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    * * *​

    Ramirez had immediately called in additional security personnel and within ten minutes the freighter Rushaan had been secured and its crew detained.

    “I want a complete manifest of everything and everyone aboard ASAP,” Ramirez instructed Lar’ragos. “This might just be a smuggling operation, but I’ve got that itch in the back of my skull again. Something’s just not right here.”

    “On it, sir,” Lar’ragos affirmed, moving off to carry out her instructions.

    She turned to Pell Ojana, who stood nearby looking morose. “You okay?” Ramirez asked her.

    Pell started slightly, drawn from her reverie. “Hmm? Oh, yes, I suppose so. It’s just that a Bajoran freighter is the closest I’ve been to home in a long time. The smell just got to me. Incense and hasperat, if I’m not mistaken.” She offered a wan smile that was clearly forced.

    Ramirez recalled that since Gibraltar had encountered an outlier Bajoran militant sect months earlier, Pell had been persona-non-grata on her homeworld. She had been in the presence of what the Vedek Assembly had categorized as a Pah-wraith, and was summarily judged to be spiritually contaminated by that event, despite all evidence to the contrary.

    She offered Pell a supportive smile in return. “For what it’s worth, I think the Vedeks are full of crap.”

    “You’ll get no argument from me, Commander.”

    With that, the two officers moved through a narrow hatchway into the ship’s hidden compartment, guarded on both sides by Gibraltar security personnel. Within the small hold was what appeared to be some manner of religious shrine, containing six members of the Yelnar species.

    The Yelnar were a humanoid race whose most notable feature was a raised fleshy spine or ridge in the middle of their head, bisecting two separate patches of hair on either side. Their eyes were both larger and more widely set than Humans or Bajorans, and they were on average somewhat taller than either of those species.

    Four of the Yelnar, three males and a female, were wearing what appeared to be uniforms adorned with rank insignia. They were each armed with a plasma pistol and Ramirez had decided to allow them to retain them for the time being in the interest of diplomacy. The two other Yelnar were females, one aging and the other an adolescent. The older woman was dressed in ornate and complex robes that suggested high office or status of some kind. The adolescent was garbed in a simple shift and leggings.

    As Ramirez and Pell entered, the four probable-soldiers assumed a defensive posture with the older and younger female behind them. All four had their hands resting on their holstered pistols.

    Ramirez made a show of holding her hands in the air, palms out. “I’m Commander Liana Ramirez and this is Lieutenant Commander Pell Ojana of the Federation Starfleet. We responded to a distress call from the Rushaan. Captain Dever claimed you were attacked by a Yelnar ship for reasons unknown to him, and then we discovered the six of you hiding aboard. We’re simply trying to uncover what’s really happening here.”

    “Have you come to arrest us?” the older woman asked pointedly from behind her makeshift military blockade.

    “At the moment the only people in any trouble here are Dever and his crew,” Ramirez answered. “May I ask your names?”

    “I am La’Osh, formerly the High-Interlocutor of the Yeldan Conservancy. The officers before you have pledged their lives and names to the state, and are recognized now only by their service numbers.”

    She had intentionally omitted the name of the girl, Ramirez noted, sharing a meaningful glance with Pell.

    “The Conservancy is your world’s primary religious faith, isn’t it?” Pell asked, having spent the past hour aboard Gibraltar gleaning everything she could from the Federation database on Yelnar history and culture.

    “That is correct. I was the head of that faith for decades. Tragically, there was a schism after the war and the collapse of Dominion control, and I was forced from office and made to flee. Those responsible for my downfall followed us here and attacked. Fortunately, Captain Dever was able to defeat them.”

    Pell queried, “And that’s why Dever fears more Yelnar ships may be coming?”

    “Yes,” La’Osh said gravely. “They will not be satisfied until I am either dead or in chains. My teachings, my life’s work have been branded heresy, and I have been declared apostate.”

    “So, why then—” Pell began, only to be cut short by Ramirez’s hand on her upper arm.

    Ramirez inclined her head towards the Yelnar in a gesture of respect. “Thank you for answering our questions, La’Osh. Our people are helping to repair this ship, and we are in the process of deciding what, if anything is to be done with the crew. Until that has been decided, is there anything you need that we may provide to you?”

    “No, thank you,” La’Osh demurred. “We prepared for a long journey and have all that we need.”

    Ramirez withdrew with Pell in tow, the Bajoran officer waiting until they had emerged into the corridor outside before fixing a curious look on the XO. “Something I said?”

    “I didn’t want to push too far too quickly,” Ramirez replied. “I want to go check the cultural database against what La’Osh has told us so far. The situation as she’s described it is an internal Yelnar dispute, potentially Prime Directive territory. Asking the wrong question too soon could tie our hands, depending on her response. Also, I don’t want to give her the chance to muddy the waters; I want her locked into a story that we can quickly prove or disprove.”

    “You think she’s lying?”

    “No,” Ramirez said after a moment’s consideration. “But she’s still holding something back. If we’re going to end up in the middle of a planet’s socio-spiritual upheaval, I want to make sure we have the full story before we either pick a side or stand aside.”

    Pell frowned. “That’s an awfully big responsibility. Are you sure you’re comfortable making that call?”

    Ramirez offered the hint of a relieved smile. “I don’t have to. That’s what the captain is for.”

    * * *​

    Sandhurst entered the briefing room, bearing a cup of Rigellian spice coffee and an exasperated expression. “Well, that’s two hours of my life researching Federation diplomatic precedents and Prime Directive loopholes that I’ll never get back.” He slid into his seat and addressed the assembled officers: Ramirez, Pell, and Lar’ragos. “What do we know so far?”

    “La’Osh was telling the truth, but it’s only the tip of a very large iceberg,” Ramirez summarized.

    “Fire pit,” Pell corrected excitedly. “The upper regions of a very deep fire pit.”

    Lar’ragos opened his mouth to offer his species’ variant of the expression but was silenced by a stern look and, “Don't,” from Sandhurst. Then, to the others, “Explain.”

    Pell opened with, “I couldn’t get much from our existing cultural database, but I inquired with Starfleet Intelligence, which has apparently been monitoring the planet as a Cardassian client state for some time now. They gave me a lot of excellent material.”

    Sandhurst nodded expectantly for her to continue.

    “La’Osh was what amounts to the head of the Yelnar national church until a little over a month ago. Now, while it's true that the Yelnar were released from Cardassian occupation over a decade ago, they remained firmly within the Cardassian Union’s sphere of influence. That means during the war they fell under Dominion authority. The Dominion strongly influenced the Conservancy to peddle pro-Dominion orthodoxy to the Yelnar people in order to keep them compliant with the war effort. La’Osh was the mouthpiece of that effort. After the war ended, more fringe elements in the church coalesced into a power bloc and moved to seize control of the governing council, something akin to the Vedek Assembly on Bajor.”

    Sandhurst cocked his head thoughtfully, taking a sip of his coffee. “So, this whole thing is an internal power struggle in their church?”

    “Oh, don’t worry, it gets more complicated,” Pell said with a grim smile. “Much of the pro-Dominion epistles originated not from the Founders or the Vorta or even from La’Osh herself, but from a young girl that the Conservancy professed to be the latest incarnation of the Yelnar messiah.”

    Ramirez winced and brought her hand up to rub at her temples with finger and thumb. “Oh, hell… the girl!”

    “The girl,” Pell confirmed.

    Sandhurst sighed, “The Yelnar are actually after the girl and not La’Osh?”

    “Oh, they’re out to get them both, but the girl is their primary target. She was rumored to have the gift of prophecy, among other supernatural abilities. Our Intel people think that the new leadership of their church either wants to publicly decry the girl as a fraud, or they want access to her prescient abilities.”

    Sandhurst held up a hand, “Wait, you’re saying that even after the Dominion and Cardassia were defeated, some of them still believe she can predict the future?”

    “And this is where it gets weird,” Pell cautioned. “According to SI, the girl correctly predicted the combined Federation/Klingon attack on the Dominion advance into the Tyra system at the beginning of the war. They’re fairly certain that her proclamation is what spurred the Dominion to stage the ambush on the 7th Fleet when they exited the Archimedes Maelstrom.”

    Ramirez’s skepticism was voluble. “That’s ridiculous! The Dominion had a massive sensor array in the Argolis Cluster, they saw the 7th Fleet coming.”

    Lar’ragos observed the exchange silently like a spectator at a tennis match.

    “Subsequent analysis of Cardassian military records refutes that, Commander,” Pell said, almost apologetically. “According to the Central Command, the Dominion leadership got the information about the 7th Fleet’s approach from the Yelnar. They didn’t specify that it came from the Yelnar messiah, but still…”

    Ramirez sat back in her chair, arms crossed. “I don’t buy it.”

    Pell shrugged. “I’m simply relaying what I received from SI, sir. I have her proclamation right here, and it describes the trinary Tyra system in pretty convincing detail, as well as the ‘approach of enemies from the Occlusion of Deroth,’ which is the Yelnar name for the Archimedes Maelstrom. The edict was announced publicly at the time, and I verified that the reference was accurately time-stamped.”

    Sandhurst held up a hand. “Regardless, it appears the girl’s recovery is seen as vital by the Yelnar, and as their attack on the Rushaan proves, they’re willing to fight to get her back.”

    “That much is certain, sir,” Lar’ragos agreed, speaking up for the first time.

    After mulling this information silently for a moment, Sandhurst inquired of Ramirez, “What’s the ETA on Rushaan’s engine repairs?”

    Now it was Ramirez’s turn to look apologetic. “Ashok says that between the battle damage inflicted by the Yelnar and the strain of powering their polaron cannon, most of the engine’s major systems have to be rebuilt. Dever’s people have some of the needed components, but not all. We’re already replicating the required parts, but it’ll be another four days before the ship’s ready to move under her own power.”

    Sandhurst grunted sourly in response.

    “Bridge to Captain Sandhurst,” came Lieutenant Juneau’s voice from the comms.

    As he tapped his combadge, Sandhurst glanced toward the ceiling by force of habit. “Go ahead.”

    “The reconnaissance probe we sent out towards Cardassian space has picked up four ships on an intercept course with our position. They read as two Yelnar combat skiffs accompanied by a Cardassian Keldon-class cruiser.”

    “Hot damn,” Lar’ragos said without enthusiasm, “now it’s a party,”


    “At present speed, they’ll be here in seventeen hours, sir.”

    Sandhurst fixed his gaze on Ramirez. “Tell Ashok he’s got fourteen hours to finalize those repairs, and no excuses. If I have to roll up my sleeves and go over there, I will.”

    “Aye, sir.”

    “When are you going to report this to Starfleet, sir?” Pell asked.

    Sandhurst stood. “After it’s over.” In response to Ramirez and Pell’s surprised expressions, he added, “The moment I call command with this they’ll order us to back the hell off. At best we’ll be left here as neutral observers, and at worst they’ll order us to catch up with the convoy. Right now all options are on the table, and that’s how I’d prefer to keep it.”

    Pell and Ramirez nodded in the affirmative before exchanging a brief look that spoke of further conversations yet to come.

    After the two women departed the observation lounge, Lar’ragos turned his attention to Sandhurst from where he’d been wool-gathering out the viewports. “I’m coming with you when you go to talk to the girl,” he said. It was less a question than a statement of fact.

    “Am I now?”

    “I’d strongly recommend it,” Lar’ragos affirmed.

    “How did you know that was my next move?” Sandhurst asked.

    Lar’ragos didn’t dignify that with a reply.

    “Okay, fine. Your insight might prove helpful,” he acknowledged.

    “And please, for all our sakes, try to leave your skepticism here on the ship,” Lar’ragos asked, a genuine entreaty void of sarcasm.

    “What do you mean?”

    “You’re a Starfleet engineer, Donald, and one of the most tactile people I’ve ever met. I don’t think faith is in your vocabulary.”

    Sandhurst looked genuinely hurt at the inference. “I respect the beliefs of all peoples, Pava.”

    "We both know that the Federation’s respect for religion is often that of benign tolerance, that same patronizing nonsense we fed the Bajorans before we discovered to our chagrin that their gods were real.”

    After holding Lar’ragos’ piercing gaze for a moment Sandhurst nodded slowly. “I promise to try and keep an open mind.”

    * * *​
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
  11. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Oh boy, this is a mess and there are probably about a million ways all this can go terribly wrong. It's a Gibraltar story, so we already know it will. Can't wait to find out how.
    Gibraltar likes this.
  12. Admiral2

    Admiral2 Admiral Admiral

    Sep 14, 2004
    "Benign tolerance." Pava knows the Federation like the back of his hand.
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  13. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Sandhurst and company are venturing into deep waters. Perhaps the good captain should kick this up the chain of command and let the brass and diplomats handle it.

    Nah, where’s the fun in that?
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  14. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Lar’ragos and Sandhurst made their way through the cramped, darkened corridors of Rushaan, navigating around cargo containers stacked in passageways and ducking below overhead storage netting slung just above them. Every square meter of the old ship had been used to store rations and spare parts for the six month journey to the Nyberrite Alliance. There were no replicators on the ancient freighter.

    Sandhurst felt a twinge of guilt at the thought that some months earlier he had found Gibraltar’s corridors to be too narrow and claustrophobic after years serving aboard cruisers and explorers. They were spacious in comparison to this aged Bajoran hauler.

    The two arrived at the entrance to the formerly hidden bay that had been transformed into a Conservancy shrine. Pell was standing by, conversing quietly with one of the two security officers flanking the doorway. She glanced up as Sandhurst stepped into view, bearing a pensive expression on her face.

    “Something wrong?”

    “Not wrong, exactly, just… unexpected,” she replied.

    Sandhurst merely stared at her, awaiting elaboration.

    Pell appeared to be choosing her words with care. “Rushaan’s crew are in there. Not all of them, obviously, but at least half. Maybe a little over half.”

    The captain cocked his head. “In the… temple?” Sandhurst wasn’t sure of the exact terminology from the Yelnar faith.

    “The sanctuary, yes,” Pell offered.

    “Is there some kind of friction between the Bajorans and the Yelnar, Commander?” Sandhurst looked questioningly towards the security officers. “And if so, why haven’t we interceded?”

    “No friction, Captain,” she answered awkwardly. “The crew are, well, I guess you’d call them believers.” She paused, then in answer to Sandhurst’s next unspoken question she continued, “Several of them have apparently converted to the Yelnar religion.”

    Lar’ragos blinked, clearly amazed at this revelation. He pointed a finger towards the hatchway to the bay, remarking, “They do know their own gods are actually real, right?”

    Sandhurst gave him a sharp look. “Pava.”

    “No, really,” the El Aurian pressed. “They’re not exactly trading up. Why would you give up your real, scientifically verifiable, magic-tunnel-through-the-stars gods for someone else’s mysticism?”

    “And you were lecturing me on spiritual insensitivity?”

    Lar’ragos withstood Sandhurst’s withering stare for a moment before turning to Pell. “A little help here?”

    The Bajoran cocked her head in a gesture of concession. “Donald, you know I’m loath to admit it on those rare occasions when Pava musters a valid point, but here we are nonetheless.”

    “Ouch,” Lar’ragos protested.

    Sandhurst looked between the two. “I’m lost. What’s your point?”

    “I can’t explain the attraction of the Yelnar faith to these Bajorans either,” Pell said. “Pava’s correct, it’s odd. Our belief in the Prophets isn’t necessarily universal, and Bajor has had a handful of alternative belief systems, but very few of those survived the Occupation. Fewer still survived the discovery of the Celestial Temple.” She offered the Bajoran variant of a shrug.

    “Let’s go ask,” Sandhurst said as he stepped across the threshold.

    The freighter’s Bajoran crewmembers knelt beside the Yelnar soldiers, offering what appeared to be supplication to the young woman seated before them. “Now, go and shine your inner light upon others, always in peace, wisdom, and respect,” she told them in a voice that sounded decades older than her thirteen-standard years. “In so doing, the peace of the few may become the bounty of the many.”

    The assembled parishioners rose as one, talking quietly among themselves as they filtered out of the compact storage bay. Lar’ragos spotted L’Osh among them, engaging with both Bajoran and Yelnar congregants.

    The officers approached L’Osh, and Lar’ragos made introductions. Sandhurst inclined his head towards the young woman, around whom had gathered a handful of congregants.” We need to speak with her.”

    L’Osh bristled, “I cannot allow it. She must be allowed to remain above such matters.”

    Sandhurst pressed, “Forgive me, High-Interlocutor, but it is imperative we speak with her to determine her part in all this. As you might imagine, given that Cardassian territory, including the Yelnar home system, is presently occupied by the Alliance, this is delicate diplomatic matter for the Federation.”

    "I speak for the Annointed,” L’Osh insisted. “Direct your questions to me.”

    Sandhurst sighed and rubbed the back of his neck absently. “I apologize for my lack of subtlety, L’Osh. Here is our situation. The Yelnar and their Cardassian allies are on their way. This ship can’t run from them, and you will be unable to hide for long. I have to decide whether to intercede on your behalf, or leave you to your fate. That decision will be based on the answers that young woman there does or doesn’t provide me in the next few minutes. Clear enough?”

    Lar’ragos gave Sandhurst a side-eyed glance, mildly surprised at his friend’s directness.

    After a moment, L’Osh relented, though her eyes flamed defiance. She led Sandhurst and Lar’ragos over to the young woman. L’Osh asked those gathered around the adolescent to give them some privacy, and as the others departed L’Osh gestured to the girl. “This is Zadra,” she said simply. No honorifics, no lofty titles, just the young woman’s name.

    “I’m Donald Sandhurst, captain of the Gibraltar, and this is my chief of security, Lieutenant Lar’ragos,” he offered by way of introduction.

    The young woman glanced between the two men. “Yes. The death-eater, and the death-bringer. I’ve been expecting you.” She turned and started towards the makeshift living quarters situated behind the sanctuary, gesturing for them to follow.

    They exchanged a quizzical look as they fell in behind the young woman.

    She led them in to a small, improvised sleeping chamber situated immediately behind the shrine. Zadra extinguished the various votive candles in favor of a Bajoran camp-light. She unceremoniously shed her religious robes and pulled on what appeared to be a baggy sweatshirt bearing the Starfleet Academy logo.

    Zadra smiled at their perplexed expressions. “A gift from your officer, Pell Ojana. It’s unbelievably rare that a religious icon receives a gift of any practical value.” She hugged her arms around her body and rocked back and forth, chirping, “So comfortable!”

    “I apologize for being abrupt,” Sandhurst said, “but time is short. The Cardassians are en route, accompanying a Yelnar contingent. We believe that they intend to take you into custody.”

    “Yes,” Zadra replied, “that’s a reasonable assumption.”

    “I need to know if you’re requesting sanctuary for you and your followers.”

    Zadra paused to consider this, turning the camp-light in her hands as she watched the patterns of illumination play across the bulkheads. “Why do you offer sanctuary, Captain?”

    “I’m concerned that you and your followers might become political prisoners of the new Yelnar religious hierarchy, or worse.”

    She eyed him skeptically. “No other reasons? No ulterior motives?”

    Sandhurst returned her stare with a inquisitive look. “I’m not sure I understand.”

    “Prophecy,” Lar’ragos provided. “She wants to know if the Federation wants her for her prescient abilities.”

    Zadra nodded in Lar’ragos’ direction. “Just so.”

    “I really don’t think anyone cares about that,” Sandhurst replied, non-plussed.

    “Captain, I offered material help to the Dominion during the war.”

    “And despite that, they lost,” Sandhurst countered. “And even if true, the war is over. I’m aware of the political relationships between Yelna and Cardassia, and the pressure your government must have placed on you to conform to their narrative.”

    She shook her head. “You don’t understand, Captain. I wasn’t made to trumpet a Dominion victory by my government. They were supposed to win. I was correct in my prediction, or I would have been, except for the intervention of the Bajoran Prophets.”

    "There was the small matter of some three and a half million allied dead, not counting our millions of civilian casualties," Lar'ragos inserted tetchily. "All due credit to the Prophets, but our honored dead did the heavy lifting."

    Sandhurst gazed intently at Zadra, allowing a moment for Lar'ragos' words to sink in. He opened his arms expansively. "Your claims are the purview of philosophers, strategists and historians, Zadra. I’m here trying to save lives. I’d like to help you, if you’ll allow it.”

    “I will consider your offer,” she said finally.

    Sandhurst shot a grim glance at Lar’ragos before turning back to the girl. “I would ask you to do so quickly. The closer they get, the fewer options we have.”

    * * *​
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  15. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    It's not usually easy to get straight answers from spiritual icons and Zadra is not all that different in this department. Her prophetic abilities could speak to her being more than a pretender, however. It's all so delightfully complicated.
  16. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    "Death-eater and death-bringer." Yeah, esoteric, but accurate.
    Not too impressed with the "I was right, except for . . ." answer. Kinda like the old Scooby-Doo cartoons. "And I'd have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those blasted kids and that dog." (Cue Scooby snicker.)
    This is both intriguing and amusing. Still, the teenage prophetess better give a straight answer before the Yelnar and the Cardassians show up.
  17. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Commodore

    Jul 9, 2001
    The Hub of the Universe
    Wow, I feel like I've just stepped through a time warp. What a treat to be reading an as yet unrevealed adventure of my favorite Gibraltar crew from "the before time". I miss them. And, I also appreciated your ex post facto foreshadowing in Zadra's sobriquets for Sandhurst and Lar'ragos. A very interesting web you're weaving here. I will look forward to following this tale, as always, and seeing where you lead us. Oh, and lest I forget ... *SQUEEEEEE* /LittleSchoolGirl ;)
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  18. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Sandhurst and Lar’ragos stepped off the transporter pad with the captain offering a nod to the chief as they headed for the exit. Fresh off their encounter with Zadra, Lar’ragos commented, “If she doesn’t want our help, I’m forced to agree with Juneau. No point in sticking our necks out if our assistance isn’t needed.”

    The pair stepped through the parting doors into the corridor, coming face-to-face with Ramirez and Pell.

    Sandhurst raised an appraising eyebrow. “This can’t be good.”

    Ramirez glanced over her shoulder to assure their relative privacy before saying, “This scenario is becoming dangerously close to spinning out of control, Captain. As your two most senior officers, Commander Pell and I need to speak with you privately as soon as possible.”

    Sandhurst nodded and gestured to starboard, leading the group to a nearby conference room on that deck that was presently unoccupied. He gestured for the others to sit as he took his place at the head of the table. “Please, go ahead.”

    The XO shared a brief look with Pell before she offered, “Sir, while I understand your reluctance to yield situational command of this this incident to headquarters, it’s our opinion that there are too many factors at play here for us to go this alone. There are a number of high-order diplomatic considerations that both command and the diplomatic corps should be addressing behind the scenes, preferably before those ships get here.”

    Sandhurst settled back into his chair. “Exec, please, you’ve never been one to mince words. Enough protocol double-speak. Let me have it.”

    “Okay,” Ramirez agreed. She held her hand horizontally just under her nose. “We’re in the shit up to here, Captain. When Starfleet finds out we’ve been sitting on this situation without telling them, they’ll roast your oysters on a spit. If the Bajorans on that ship are taken prisoner by the Yelnar with the Cardassians’ help or complicit approval, this whole thing will blow up in our collective faces. The Bajoran militia will be obligated to mount a rescue mission, and we’ll have a shooting war on our hands.”

    He nodded slowly, observing that not only Pell but Lar’ragos too seemed in accord with Ramirez’s assessment.

    “Okay. Anything else?”

    She looked to the others. “Nothing for public consumption, sir.”

    Sandhurst jerked a thumb towards the doors. “Pava, Ojana, please give us the cabin.”

    Looking bemused, the two officers retreated wordlessly into the corridor.

    “Shoot,” Sandhurst ordered.

    “With respect, sir, I’m due to assume my own command in less than two months. To be frank, I don’t need any of this mess sticking to me.”

    Sandhurst rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly. “So, to recap, I’ve overstepped my authority in this situation while potentially creating an interstellar incident and compromising my career and that of my senior officers in the process?”

    “Accurate and succinctly stated, sir,” Ramirez agreed.

    His expression turned dour as he said, “You realize that we’ve both witnessed command turning their backs on innocents before in order to ‘preserve the peace.’ Are you prepared to walk away from this if we’re told to turn a blind eye to the fate of the Yelnar refugees?”

    “Those decisions are made far above our heads for a reason, sir,” she countered. “Command isn’t subject to the same emotional factors we are out here in the thick of it. Cooler heads can prevail, ones that have weighed the risks and benefits of acting or failing to act.”

    “You actually believe that?” he queried skeptically.

    “I do,” she answered. “I can walk away and sleep soundly. The chain-of-command exists for a reason.”

    A moment passed before Sandhurst allowed. “Thank you for your candor. I’ll call command straight away and bring them up to speed. You have my word that if any of this washes back in our direction, I will convey explicitly to the powers-that-be that you advised me to report in first thing.”

    “Thank you, sir.”

    * * *​
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  19. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Feb 5, 2006
    Glad to see this is still on track.

    Look at Ramirez telling truth to power. Good for her. Intellectually, of course, she is totally correct. I'm curious to find out how all of this could still go horrible wrong.
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  20. Warp Rider

    Warp Rider Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    May 1, 2009
    1138 Another Galaxy, Canada.
    Definitely enjoying the story thus far. Though I see where Ramierez is coming from but I'm still siding with Sandhurst. Time is short, and things could turn into a massacre while diplomats far away discuss and weigh the situation before getting back with a decision.

    Looking forward to the next installment.
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2019
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